Singapore SARS patient recovering; review panel formed

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Sep 15, 2003 (CIDRAP News) – A Singapore man who tested positive for SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) is doing well and will probably be released from a hospital to home quarantine this week, the Singapore Ministry of Health said today.

Also, an 11-member international panel of experts has been formed to review epidemiologic data on the man's case and check safety standards and practices in the two laboratories where he was working, the ministry said in a statement on its Web site.

The panel, chaired by Dr. Antony Della-Porta, an Australian biosafety expert from the World Health Organization (WHO), started its work today, the ministry reported. The group includes two specialists from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr Sonja Olsen, an epidemiologist, and Dr. Pierre E. Rollin, a biosafety expert.

According to news reports elsewhere, a Singapore official on Saturday said the CDC had confirmed the finding of the SARS coronavirus in clinical samples from the 27-year-old man. CDC spokesman Dave Daigle wouldn't confirm the reports, saying the CDC leaves it to health authorities in the source country to announce CDC findings in cases like this. Samples from the patient were sent to the CDC last week.

Singapore officials announced Sep 9 that the man was in isolation and had had two positive polymerase chain reaction tests for the SARS virus. He first became ill with a fever Aug 27 and later experienced musculoskeletal pains and a dry cough. WHO officials said last week that the man's case didn't fit the WHO case definition.

The patient has a job doing research on the West Nile virus in a laboratory at the National University of Singapore, and he also has done some work in an environmental health laboratory at the National Environment Agency. The SARS virus has been studied at that lab, and it is suspected that the man contracted the virus there.

In its statement today, the Ministry of Health said the patient "is doing well and has no fever. We expect him to be discharged by Wednesday. He will be placed on a 14-day home quarantine order. All contacts of the case remain well. He is an isolated case of low public health risk." Last week 25 contacts of the patient were ordered into home quarantine.

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